Bellator play by play announcer Sean Wheelock joins us for an interview to preview season 10 of Bellator. Topics discussed include:
- Calling fights with Jimmy Smith, who agreed to a contract extension recently
- Gilbert Melendez’s decision to stay in the UFC
- Alexander Shlemenko: Most underrated fighter in MMA?
- Pat Curran: Perfect example of the Bellator model
- His off-season side career as a boxing referee and much more.
Newport Beach, Calif. (February 24, 2014) – When reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion Alexander Shlemenko steps into the cage on March 28th, the 29-year-old Russian finisher will not only be looking for his incredible 50th win, but will also be fighting with a new contract in hand as Bellator has announced a long term extension for the man known simply as “Storm”.
“Bellator has been my home for many years, and it’s where I want to be,” Shlemenko said. “Bjorn made me a promise and he lived up to that promise to provide me with a new deal. I have made a home here at Bellator, and I will continue to represent Russia in my efforts in the cage. I have gained millions of new fans both in the US and in Russia and around the world during my time with Bellator, and I will enjoy being Bellator’s longest running champion. I will continue wearing that belt with honor during my time with Bellator, which will now be at the peak of my career.”
Currently riding a twelve-fight win streak that includes victories over Brett Cooper, Maiquel Falcao, Doug Marshall and Vitor Vianna, Shlemenko will defend his crown against Season 9 Tournament winner Brennan Ward on March 28th live on Spike. As one of the true Russian ambassadors for the sport, Shlemenko is set to reign over the Bellator Middleweight division for years thanks to his extension.
“Alexander Shlemenko has been with this organization since its infancy, and has grown into one of the most dominant champions in MMA,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “I can say without hesitation Alexander has been a large part of the success we have enjoyed over the last five years and as the biggest name in Russian MMA, he’s been the catalyst to the largest TV deal in the history of MMA in Russia. It’s an honor to have him fight in this organization. I look forward to watching his career continue inside the Bellator cage for years to come.”
Matt Riddle will be looking for a new promotion again. The circumstances are different than his release from the UFC, but Riddle has been released from Bellator MMA. Press release below:
Newport Beach, CA. (November 19, 2013) – A welterweight feature fight between Matt Riddle and Nathan Coy has been removed from the November 22nd card after Riddle has withdrawn from the fight. Originally scheduled to compete in the Season 9 Welterweight Tournament, Riddle suffered a rib injury and was removed from the tournament due to the injury. After withdrawing from the November 22nd fight, the promotion has decided to release Riddle.
“Matt was a guy we had high hopes for coming into Bellator,” Bellator Director of Communications Anthony Mazzuca said. “After Matt suffered his rib injury and withdrew from our tournament, we went back to the drawing board and got Matt another fight on November 22nd. Unfortunately, Matt very recently informed us he would not be fighting on November 22nd from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and at that point we decided to release Matt from Bellator. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
by Matt Lo Cascio
XFO 29 was an historic event for a few reasons. The event took place April 17, 2009, and featured the organization’s first female fight, with Buffalo Grove’s Felice “L’il Bulldog” Herrig dropping a split decision to Valerie Coolbaugh.
XFO 29 also featured the first fight between Pat Curran and Daniel Straus. The rematch comes Saturday night, with Curran’s Bellator featherweight title on the line.
Curran suffered his first professional loss to Indiana’s Darren Elkins at C3 a few months before the Straus fight. He came back from that just a month later to beat current UFC fighter Ramiro Hernandez Jr. at Adrenaline II, on a card that featured Pat Miletich, Ben Rothwell, Mike Ciesnolevicz, LC Davis and Chicago’s Mike Russow.
The Straus fight would be Curran’s fourth fight in just five months, with both the Elkins and Hernandez Jr. fights going the distance. It turned out to be significant not just because of the upcoming rematch, but also because that fight featured Curran’s first professional knockout.
Will Brooks repeatedly put Saad Awad on his back, smothering the fighter over three rounds in route to a unanimous decision that avenged the only loss of his career. The win earns Brooks a fight with Tiger Sarnavskiy in the Bellator lightweight tournament final on November 22.
Brooks clearly won each round in the fight, and would not give into Awad’s taunts to make it a brawl. He used his speed, athleticism and powerful wrestling to keep Awad off his game.
After Brooks had Awad in the crucifix position to end round one, Awad’s frustration began to boil over. Brooks landed several leg kicks to start round two, and Awad showed his frustration by taunting Brooks, barking at him “Come on!” while waving him in. Brooks smiled wide, and also waved Awad in. But he didn’t fall for the tactic.
Awad did cinch up a guillotine with 3:45 left in round two, but Brooks pushed down Awad’s right knee and stepped over into half-guard. Action got back to standing and with 2:15 left, when Brooks threw a jab and followed it with a double-leg that got Awad down again. Awad was laboring to breathe at that point.
Brooks got himself into a bit of trouble late in the round. He was trying to avoid up kicks from Awad and went to take top position. He instead jumped right into a triangle, but had both arms free and was able to survive the round.
Brooks scored yet another takedown on Awad early in round three, but Awad immediately swept him and ended up in his half-guard. Brooks was able to explode out, evaded a straight-right from Awad and took him right back down.
Brooks backpedaled away after a few of Saad’s strikes connected with about two minutes left. Awad slapped his own face with both hands and implored Brooks to fight. Brooks again just smiled at Awad, then shot in with a lightning-fast double-leg that put Awad on his back again.
“This ain’t Rocky,” analyst Jimmy Smith said of Brooks’ decision to go for the takedown rather than get in a slugfest with Awad. “I’m going to change level, hit the double-leg, finish out on top,” Smith said.
With just over a minute left in the fight, referee Jason Herzog called for a standup. Brooks actually helped Awad off the canvas.
Play-by-play announcer Sean Wheelock asked, “Is that sportsmanship or is that sending a message of domination?”
“Maybe a little bit of both, hard to tell right now,” Smith replied.
Again Awad barked at Brooks to engage. Again Brooks shot in and put Awad on his back, ending up in side control. Awad continued to complain from the bottom, then the bell to end round three sounded.
“That’s exactly the fight Will Brooks talked about,” Smith said. “A three-round domination, 15 minutes, I’m going to drag him into deep water and drown him — that’s exactly what he did.”
Brooks again helped Awad off the canvas and raised both of their hands up. But only Brooks got his hand raised after the scorecards were read, winning via unanimous decision, 30-27 on all cards.
“I’ve been through a lot to get to this point in my life, man. Me, my family, my friends…we’ve all made extreme sacrifices, just so I could chase one dream that every other fighter in here has chased,” Brooks told Jimmy Smith in his post-fight interview.
by Matt Lo Cascio
Will Brooks dominated John Alessio in their Bellator lightweight tournament fight, blooding the UFC veteran over three rounds, earning a unanimous decision win and a rematch against Saad Awad, the only fighter to defeat him.
In his video piece before the fight, Alessio talked about how he would love the opportunity to fight Bellator lightweight champ Michael Chandler. He said he was too much for Will Brooks, he was going to break him and he had already won the fight. “He’s going to wish that he got paired up with one of the other seven guys in the tournament,” Alessio said.
Not only was Alessio’s math fuzzy, his assessment of Brooks couldn’t have been more wrong.
Brooks took charge early in round one by peppering Alessio with leg kicks. With 3:20 left in the round, Alessio caught a knee that Brooks threw and backed him into the cage, eventually getting the takedown and landing in side control. But Brooks easily escaped and got back to his feet, then landed some quick uppercuts that cut Alessio.
Alessio tried to jump into a guillotine on Brooks, but when he closed guard and hit the ground, Brooks easily broke free and initiated some ground and pound to end the round.
The pace slowed a bit in round two, but Brooks again used leg kicks and movement to keep Alessio off-balance and out of reach. Brooks did get to full mount at the end of the round and started to work for a choke. But he looked up at the clock and saw that time was short, so he opted instead for some strikes to end the round.
Brooks was so excited to get back at it in round three that he left his corner before the bell sounded. He used an outside trip to get Alessio to the ground and continued to batter the veteran after passing his guard. That sequence led analyst Jimmy Smith to gush about Brooks’ performance.
“I like the refinements in Will Brooks’ game. He’s showing more technical development, better opportunities with his passing, that’s something we didn’t see a lot of against Ricardo Tirloni. He’s taking these opportunities to improve his position. That’s a big improvement,” Smith said.
Brooks poured it on near the end of round three, landing three big knees that cut Alessio again and sent him down. A gruesome close-up showed him leaking blood that dripped off his face and nose and pooled on the mat. The round ended before Brooks could finish the fight.
Brooks popped his American Top Team shirt as the scorecards were read, a lopsided unanimous decision that was scored 30-26, 30-27 and the very rare 30-25.
There was a big smile on Brooks’ face when Jimmy Smith told him that he would be facing Saad Awad in the next round of the Bellator lightweight tourney, but Brooks delivered a matter-of-fact response when Smith asked how he felt about going into a rematch with Awad.
“I’m just going to enjoy this victory, man. John Alessio is a veteran, and to be able have the blessing to be out here and come and compete against him and get a W, I’m just going to enjoy this moment. When I get back to the gym we’ll start focusing on the next fight,” Brooks said.
Michael Chandler may be known primarily as a wrestler, but he continues to show he’s a vicious striker and a legit Bellator champion.
Here he needs little time to erase David Rickels at Bellator 97.
At the beginning of the third round of the Will Brooks vs. Cris Leyva fight at Bellator 97, analyst Jimmy Smith commented that Will Brooks was in control of the fight, but he hadn’t been impressive. Brooks changed that in short order.
Moments later, Brooks landed a right hand that snapped back Leyva’s head. Then Brooks played stalker, continually hunting Leyva down and backing him down near the cage, where Leyva would try to circle away. Brooks used his striking, a combination of punches and kicks, in putting it on Leyva.
With just over three minutes left in the third round, Brooks shot and finished a take down of Leyva, easily getting to full mount in the process.
Leyva gave up his back and Brooks took it. He sank in his hooks and let loose with some left hands that landed. Leyva could not escape the back mount, and the fight was stopped at 2:20 of the third round.
Here’s video of the final round.
Brooks wasn’t happy with his performance, apologizing in a Tweet:
I want to apologize to all my fans for my performance. I just wanted to get the W and get into the tournament again I apologize
— Will Brooks (@illwillbrooks86) July 31, 2013
Brooks also tweeted that he is now solely focused on his September 27 tournament opener against veteran John Alessio in Portland.
Chicago Fight Team’s Louis Taylor had just finished his main event victory against Eric Hammerich at APFC 11. As he left the cage to go celebrate with what seemed like a small city of fans and family, he kindly gave us a minute to address some issues: MTC fighter Mike Pitz, why he left Bellator and where he’ll be fighting next.
On Mike Pitz: “Pitz you’re a coward, stop wasting my time. We can be friends on Facebook, birthdays, but get off this ‘I wanna fight him, I don’t wanna fight him crap’”.
On Why he left Bellator: “Contract dispute. They don’t want to show me, they don’t want to pay me. I’d rather be on my own, getting it in at home. Then when I grow here, I’ll rep here on the big stage: the UFC.”
APFC promoter Rich Seldal said Taylor will again be the main event on in October 5. “If that’s what they want, I’m here,” Taylor said.
Check out the sound below.
Bellator’s new reality show “Fight Master” on Spike TV premieres Wednesday, June 19. 32 fighters will vie for a spot in the upcoming Bellator welterweight tournament. Here’s a look at the format and the cast.